The “abused woman” is not always the one-dimensional story you think you recognize from the PSA. Liz. J. Simpson is known as the “Self-Discovery Diva”. She is an author, award-winning speaker and “inside-out success” coach for women entrepreneurs. Her new book, The Puzzle Pieces of Me, is a self-help memoir that provides a 10-step blueprint for women on the journey of self-discovery.
At one time, she was also living in a shelter with her baby girl, on the run from her abusive ex. Liz now teaches other domestic abuse survivors to overcome doubt, fear and low self-worth through her platform, Diva Survivors.
Liz, you are very open about having been in an abusive relationship. Please tell us how you went from being a blissful college student to being a single mom in a shelter?
While away at college, I started dating a boyfriend during a tumultuous time in my life. There were signs of jealousy, possessiveness and rage. However, he was also very charismatic and loving most times. I was shocked when he first struck me with his fists. I never saw that coming. I ended the relationship. Then, I found out that I was 6 weeks pregnant. Although we weren’t still together, my pregnancy escalated the abuse. Things took a turn for the worse. I fled for safety to a battered women’s shelter with my infant daughter and we stayed there for 9 months.
How did you find the courage to share your story?
Abuse is a relationship issue that affects more than 1 in 3 women worldwide. Black women are three times as likely to be murdered as a case of domestic violence. I realized that this pattern will continue to repeat itself until more women, like myself, share their stories. My courage comes from knowing that this is not about me, it is bigger than me. It is about using the lessons from my storm to serve others and hopefully save them from the devastation of lack of self-love or abuse.
People mistakenly believe that domestic violence victims always have a certain look, race, or educational status. Can you please speak to this?
When I stayed in the shelter for nine months, I watched the revolving door of women coming in and out and there was no pattern. I’ve worked with hundreds of survivors worldwide and they are women from all ethnicities, backgrounds, geographies and socio-economic statuses. Domestic abuse does not discriminate. I have clients who are on government assistance, clients who are leaders in fortune 500 companies and clients who are at the helm of their own successful companies. They have different immediate concerns but they all struggle with the same shame and internal wounds.
You are now in a loving marriage. Yay! What is your love story?
After a few bad breakups, I realized that the common denominator was me. I learned to forgive myself for my past, stop the negative internal chatter and fall in love with the woman I saw in the mirror. And not too long after, I met my best friend and husband. I am now blessed to say that I am a happily married wife and mother of two. We accept the love that we believe we are worthy of. It took a lot of work for me to see that I was worthy of my happy ending but now I’m glad I did!
What did your husband need to know to love you? Are there specific challenges for men who love a formerly abused women?
Fear, trust and consistency are [real] challenges. Many of the women I work with are afraid of feeling taken advantage of again or afraid that one day a disagreement is going to escalate into violence. Most abusers appear charismatic in the beginning so it may be difficult for a survivor to trust that a man is who he says he is initially. I used to set up “traps” in the beginning of the relationship with my husband. I would self-sabotage things to see how ugly or angry he could get. I realized that I was playing games. I had to stop punishing my husband for my past. In order to have the healthy, productive love that I had been dreaming of, I had to step up and be the woman that provided that love. Almost 5 years later, my husband has consistently shown up as my biggest supporter, life companion and friend.
Partner violence is not just physical. In The Puzzle Pieces of Me, you detail the different kinds of abuse, including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and spiritual abuse.
Yes, domestic abuse is not restricted to being physically struck by a partner. More than half of female victims of rape report being raped by an intimate partner (such as a spouse). 98% of domestic abuse victims report financial abuse (perpetrator restricting access to assets) as one of the key factors inhibiting their ability to leave. Spiritual abuse is when a perpetrator uses doctrines or teachings of the victim’s religion to justify their behavior. It is another form of psychological or emotional abuse which includes tactics such as name calling, threatening or humiliation of the victim.
What do you hope that women will get from reading your transformational book?
Regardless if a woman has experienced domestic abuse or not, my book is about inner evolution. It is an inspirational guide for women to understand that their life’s circumstances do not discount their limitless worth. I want women to read this book and come away with a deeper sense of love for themselves and belief in the possibility for their lives. If you are reading this and in an abusive relationship, you are not alone. It’s never too late to start creating the life you desire. You are worthy. It is important to safety plan and identify the resources available to you. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or at.thehotline.org.
Abiola Abrams is the author of the award-winning Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love, Manifest Your Miracles meditation album and African Goddess Affirmation Cards. The popular lifestyle guru is also the founder of the Sacred Bombshell Self-Care Kits, blog, web TV show, and online academy at SacredBombshell.com. Follow her on Twitter to continue the discussion about this week's hot topic, and then email her your burning questions now. Anything you send will be posted anonymously, promise.